fri 13/12/2019

Prom 17: Shaham, Bavarian RSO, Nézet-Séguin review – a Montrealer brings “l’fun” | reviews, news & interviews

Prom 17: Shaham, Bavarian RSO, Nézet-Séguin review – a Montrealer brings “l’fun”

Prom 17: Shaham, Bavarian RSO, Nézet-Séguin review – a Montrealer brings “l’fun”

More peaks and joys, with a superb violinist light and agile in Prokofiev

Effervescent: Yannick Nézet-Séguin BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Montrealers exude a particular kind of happiness and have wonderfully snappy expressions to convey it: “Chu correc”, means ‘I’m fine’, and “C’est l’fun” means...exactly what it looks like. Yannick Nézet-Séguin is a distinctly proud Montrealer (“It’s where I live, it’s where my partner lives, it’s where my cats live...it is where I feel truly and fully myself,” he has said), and that special effervescence was plainly visible in both of his concerts at the Proms with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

In the second concert, he brought it notably to the Suite from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier widely attributed to the conductor Artur Rodziński. With the first arrival of the Baron Ochs theme “Ohne Mich”, Nézet-Séguin’s broad smile and his swagger yielded wonderful results. The whole suite had a superb freedom and sweep to it. For this Munich orchestra, this piece is very much home territory, and with Nézet-Séguin’s strong sense of “l’fun”, it just felt completely right.

The Strauss also brought to the fore the superb string sections of the orchestra. Every time the cellos of the BRSO are given the melody, it is as if they sing it from the heart. And the unanimity of the entire string contingent, their ability to work, think and breathe completely as one is truly remarkable. This was a point underlined by the encore, a transcendent performance of Sibelius’ Valse Triste.

The woodwind section had been impeccable in the first of the two concerts, and there is no doubting the star quality of most of the principal players. However, there were a few occasions – especially in the Strauss and the central movement of the Prokofiev Violin concerto – when they could have done with more clarity and definition, more of the sense of playing “across” as a truly unified section.
The violinist Lisa Batiashvili had had to cancel at short notice, and the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No 2. was placed in the eminently capable hands of Gil Shaham (pictured above by Sisi Burn) - his recording of the work from the 1990s received two Grammy nominations, and he re-recorded it four years ago. The performance last night was remarkable for its agility and lightness. In concert, Nézet-Séguin always seems to have solved any problems of orchestral balance as if they never existed; to have achieved that while in the parts of this work that in Shahan's amiable and hushed reading demand genuine quietness, such as the first few pages of the second movement, was miraculous.

One of the undying mysteries of the Royal Albert Hall is quite how solo Bach comes across so well in the cavernous space. Last night Shahan performed the "Gavotte en Rondeau" from Bach’s violin Partita No. 3 with winning elegance and grace as an encore. The audience was suddenly listening intently. The coughing stopped. Unless someone has a better explanation I can only assume that some special magic is at work in this hall.

The opening work of the concert was Sibelius’ First Symphony. Nézet-Séguin has worked intensively with his Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal on the symphonies of Bruckner, and there is perhaps something of the episodic nature of Bruckner in his approach to Sibelius. But the overwhelming feeling when hearing Nézet-Séguin’s work with this orchestra over the past two days has been the level of communication and the quality his conducting brings. There is a conscious shaping and building, and the listener knows that the peaks when they arrive, the joys, will always be given their full value. Nézet-Séguin’s previous concert before these appearances at the Proms was back in his home city, with the Orchestre Métropolitain giving its ‘annual present’ to the city, a free concert to 35,000 people at the foot of the Mont-Royal. That energy, that generosity of spirit, that Montreal summer happiness is what stays in the mind from these two Proms.

@sebscotney

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